The Snake Woman

Artwork by Matthew Meyer, yokai.com

In light of my recent article at Science Fantasy Hub, I thought I would write a bit more about one of the Japanese monsters I use in my book Headless.

In Headless, there are three specific monsters that are featured. One of them is from Japanese mythology and the other two I made up. Read the article here to find out more about the other two, and to get some advice for making your own Japanese monsters, which are known as yokai.

But the one I didn’t make up is from Masami’s past, when she was eleven years-old and on a fishing trip with her father. In Headless, I never refer to this monster by its Japanese name, preferring to let it be an organic discovery by Masami (and the reader).

I call it the snake woman.

But in Japanese lore it is called the nure onna, which translates to “wet woman.” They always appear soaking wet.

Traditionally, nure onna are from Kyushu, which is the southernmost island of Japan, and the third largest. They are vampiric sea serpents that feed on human blood. Lake Yamanaka, where Masami sees the snake woman in Headless, is in Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands, which contains the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

Nure onna are also traditionally found in sea water, but mine is in a fresh water lake.

A favorite trick of the nure onna is to appear as a woman in distress, holding a bundled baby to lure victims closer. She asks for help holding the baby, so she can rest. When someone complies, the baby becomes impossibly heavy and pins the victim to the spot, leaving them helpless to the nure onna’s blood drain.

In Headless, the snake woman had a baby, but Masami was smart enough to not get too close, an innate sense warning her something wasn’t right.

You can read more about the nure onna and other fascinating Japanese monsters at yokai.com.

What would you do if you saw a drenched woman on the beach holding a baby, pleading for help? Does the nure onna make you think twice about helping?

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